How to Pick a Summer Camp
There are more than 8,000 summer camps in the U.S., offering everything from canoeing to computers. Take some time with your kids to decide which summer camp is right for them and how long they should be away from home.
Nearly every successful summer-camp
experience requires lots and lots of sunblock, a flashlight, and a bathing
suit. But long before you cross things off your child's packing list,
self-evaluation of your goals will go a long way to ensuring that you pick the
right summer camp for your child, say camp experts.
"A good camp experience begins with
self-evaluation," says Jeffrey Solomon, MSW, executive director of the
National Camp Association (NCA), a non-profit organization. "Parents need
to ask themselves what their goals are for their child. There are so many types
of camps out there -- sports, arts, nature, computers -- that to make the right
choice requires knowing exactly what you want from a camp."
Solomon says that some of the questions
parents need to ask include how much time they want their child to spend away
from home, how much the camp stay will cost, and whether a general-interest
camp or a specialty camp that focuses on a specific activity is
"There are more than 8,000 summer camps
in the U.S.," says Solomon. "That's great because it means there is a
camp for every need and every interest. But setting goals can very quickly
narrow the choices down to a reasonable number to deal with."
Some summer camps cater to children with
special medical needs such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
"When a medical disorder is involved,
such as ADHD, diabetes, or depression, the parents may want to talk to their
doctor to determine whether the child's symptoms require a special-needs camp.
Sometimes, if the symptoms are not severe, a general camp may be the better
The NCA's web site, at
, has a free, question-and-answer feature that allows parents to
profile their needs, goals, and other specifics such as camp location and cost.
The web site matches the parent profile with summer camps that most closely
meet the specifications.
How Long to Stay at Summer Camp?
Most experts agree that children under 7
are too young for sleep-away camp. And a general-interest camp is best for
children under 10.
"Of course, that's flexible," says
Christopher Thurber, PhD, co-author of Summer Camp Handbook, and a
spokesperson for the American Psychological Association. "In my experience,
the lower end for a one-week sleep-away camp is 7-years-old. But even some
10-year-olds may need a shorter session."